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30 Nov 2007

War on Terror - a Year On

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We all know that the real 'war on terror' has been sewing the seeds of democracy for years now in dark and primitive corners of the world. Evil-doers and terrorists, unable to bear the sweet scent of freedom, have had no option but to run and hide. So what of our own humble game - the unscrupulous sickness of a boardgame that our twisted minds conjured up from nothing but our own gutter-dwelling depravity and was in no way related to the insanity of real-world events? Our own private war on terror is just one year old and to celebrate, here's a little retrospective ...

Yes indeedy, a year ago today, we held a launch party at the Front Line Club in London. It ended in chaos with puke, wine and bits of terrorist pinata strewn about the pristine white venue. That mess - not all our own doing, we have to stress - turned out to be representative of the following 12 months: a glorious, technicolour, chaotic explosion of fun and accidents. Join us aboard the retro-rollercoaster that is HMS TerrorBull Games...

terrorists, unable to bear the sweet scent of freedom, have had no option but to run and hide To start, we have to go back a little further than a year to the time when War on Terror came into existence for many people as they opened the paper one Monday morning in September.

September 06 - starting with our local paper, the Cambridge Evening News devoting the front page, the middle page spread and the op. ed. piece to our boardgame, things rapidly snowballed. Before the week was up, the game had been mentioned in newspapers, on radio stations and TV stations all over the world. We particularly enjoyed the 'Sick' and 'Fury' headlines from The Sun and The Daily Mail. But more than anything, we got a crash course in media relations. It's rare you get a real insider's view of what the media claim the public think and what the public actually think. This is how illegal wars are able to start - because the media are completely unrepresentative of anything but their own corporate and power interests.

October 06 - Our first business relationship goes tits up. Charles Gee Group decide to terminate our contract by email just 4 days before they were due to ship 5,000 copies of War on Terror to the UK. We're also banned from our first Toy Fair in Essen, who (now infamously) decried the game as 'sick and ridiculous' and 'worse than a swastika'. Nuremburg, New York and London Toy Fairs are all swift to follow suit. We begin to learn what the phrase 'commercial leper' really means.

November 06 - First games arrive, although they are delayed at customs. Tensions mount as the pre-order list grows. Seeing a 12m high stack of shipping cartons labelled 'war on terror game' made us delirious with joy. We hold a protest game in Parliament Square (which ends in 'world peace') and we officially launch the game at the Front Line Club in London. Black militia men and Terrorist Bingo are among the highlights of an insane evening, all filmed by our own private documentary crew as well as Al Arabiya news.

December 06 - War on Terror turns up barely in time for Christmas. A last-minute rush means we average around 3 hours sleep a night for the last few weeks of the year.

January 07 - Uniservegate hits us hard. More and more deliveries go missing. Things come to a head when Mr Man-At-The-Top decides he has something personal against our game and puts a halt to things, literally.

February 07 - We're forced to close down the website while we sort things out with Uniserve. Court is narrowly avoided only when we drive down to their warehouses and refuse to leave without at least enough games to clear the backlog they've created. TBG HQ is transformed into a kind of box-maze with floor-to-ceiling War on Terror. Over the coming weeks, Uniserve chuck us out of their warehouse and hold the rest of our stock to ransom.

April 07 - After finally rescuing our games, we head off to the Home of the 'war on terror', the United States of America for our first Game Convention in Las Vegas. This involves, among other things, sneaking through customs with 40 balaclavas, unexploded bomb signs, 200 cockroaches and 150 square foot of camo netting; scavenging rubbish from the Vegas streets in the early hours of the morning for our booth (for which we later win a 'best in show' award); playing frisbee in the desert; driving to LA for the world's first War on Terror tournament and starting a fight between Princess Leia and Catwoman on Hollywood Boulevard. If that weren't enough, we also secured American distribution and received a glowing review in Playboy. Shout of the month goes to Mr Bill Gilman who single-handedly conceived of and arranged the WoT Tournament. You're a legend, Bill.

May 07 - War on Terror sells out in the US. We have to rush some of our UK stock over the seas to keep America in sufficient terror.

June 07 - We start work on the 2nd print run of War on Terror. Although we'd really like to tweak the rules a bit and bring out a 2nd edition, time constraints mean that we have to leave the game intact. We do, however, make provisions for a new, improved, lightweight balaclava.

August 07 - the game achieves a modicum of geek culture status by appearing on the set of Channel 4's hit sitcom the IT Crowd. We also attend our second game convention - Gencon UK in Reading and plant WMDs around campus.

September 07 - the game officially launches in the USA, available to distributors and retailers for the first time. Preorders go mental.

October 07 - back home, more and more shops are joining the coalition of the willing and are backing the War on Terror. The ICA, the political cartoon gallery, Nog Gallery and the Socialist Bookshop are among the welcome new recruits.

November 07 - just when it looks like all the obstacles are behind us and things are finally on the rise for TerrorBull Games, we're dealt the cruellest blow yet. Nope, we can't tell you any more yet, but it's a Motherbitch and it almost bankrupt us.

So there you have it, a weird, bewildering, funny and frustrating 12 months. We've gone from not knowing anything about publishing board games to selling 7,000 games worldwide. We've been on Arab TV, Colombian radio and lauded by Playboy and Amnesty International alike. War on Terror is now on sale in games shops, book shops, army and navy stores and art galleries in Europe, North America and Australia - and it's all been caught on camera for what will probably be a rather amusing film some day soon. You might think we're joking, but we're not really sure how we did it, Part of the answer is that we've done it with an awful lot of help and now's as good a chance as any to say thanks to all those people who have supported over the past year, whether it be some kind words of encouragement, or something more substantial, we're grateful to everyone for their help and of course everyone who has bought and played the game. We couldn't do it without you, thank you.

But now we've ended on a cliff-hanger. What will become of TerrorBull Games? It's like a soap opera, isn't it? Like any good drama series, you'll just have to tune in next time and find out ...

... and as the label in the evil balclava says, Play Nice!

 

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